Good Riddance!

The decade is almost over. How was it for you? For some it will have been a life-changing 10 years, as the sixties were for so many of we ‘boomers’. For others it will have been harrowing or depressing. However you feel about the 2010s there will have been amazing innovations as well as gaping anomalies. Since turkeys are so much more entertaining than peacocks, as we close the decade here’s a list, in no particular order, of some of my personal gripes of the last 10 years, the trends I’d like to see die out in the ‘twenties’.

  1.  Built-in obsolescence.

Moving to a house with a spiral staircase led us to buy the wondrous item that is a cordless vacuum cleaner, and delighted we were-except that after 2 years the battery was lasting long enough to hoover a modest sized bath mat. Three hundred pounds worth of cleaner and a battery which costs £299 [or thereabouts] to replace.

Then there’s the growing heap of redundant devices in a deep drawer in our office [‘office’ sounds posher than it is-for office, read ‘glory hole’-a term my mother used for a dumping ground]. Their batteries are extinct, their operating systems superseded. My current laptop [being written on as I speak] is losing its longevity when untethered. It’s time for all this constant consumerism to stop.

2.  The Ghost High Street

The UK is not alone in experiencing the death of its vibrant town centres. Empty shops, flaking facades and litter strewn doorways can be seen throughout Europe’s towns. It is not, however the same for every High Street, since some communities have fought back in a variety of innovative ways. My favourites are those that have replaced tired ‘chain’ cafes and betting shops with delicatessens, independent cafes, micro-pubs, refill and eco shops, fair-trade and recycled or handmade goods. While everyone needs barbers and nail salons you can have a little too much of the grooming business.

Wouldn’t it be just great to see 1. on the list above combined with 2., so that each and every High Street had a repair workshop where you could get a battery replaced, a hose for a vacuum cleaner, a new pocket in your favourite trousers, new heels on your shoes, a watch strap or some re-upholstery?

Or how about a swap shop, where for a small charge you could swap the designer dress you’ve grown tired of [or grown out of] for something of equivalent value? Or somewhere you could borrow an item-like a bicycle, a posh outfit or a painting?

Of course all this would require cash-strapped councils to use their imaginations and waive or limit their rates. I don’t suppose many of them are forward-thinking enough to do it…

3. Packaging

At the risk of doing the thing to death, the plastic dilemma continues to run and run. Myself, I’m at a loss. I bought the re-usable vegetable bags. I tried to use them. Each time I visit a supermarket [one of which claims to be in the forefront of recyclable, ‘plastic-free’ goods] there is less loose produce available for those with their own bags. I’ve posted before about the frosty reception I received for presenting my own containers at the deli counter…

I also read that more and more plastic bottles of water are being sold. Water! We do not live in a third world country without piped water. Our drinking water is clean. I’d like someone to explain to me why anyone in this day and age, living in a country with clean sanitation and tapped drinking water needs to BUY bottles of the stuff. Please stop this madness now! Or else the government need to force the companies that cynically sell this over-priced commodity to use glass or compostable containers.

4. Selfies

What an appropriate word ‘selfie’ is! Is anyone else fed up with self-absorbed, pouting, thrusting, leg-out, chest-out, ‘I’m-having-a-wonderful-time-with-all-my-friends-not-you-drinking-eating-drunk’ photos? Last year in Venice we were almost unable to look at anything without posing selfie-takers draping themselves in front of it. Enough!

5. Subscription TV

I’ve done the free Netflix trial. It was pants. I’m not doing Amazon Prime for a variety of reasons [Jeremy Clarkson is one]. I mostly watch BBC. I loath ad breaks. I’m a dinosaur.

6. Celebrity nobodies [and the challenge programmes they are all on].

7. Shoulders sticking out of tops and knees poking out of jeans.

8. ‘Smart’ things.

9. Pompous, egotistical, old, white, male, megalomaniac leaders of nations.

10. Annoying lists.

I expect you’ll have your own ideas about what should die, reader. Feel free to post in the comments! Happy New Decade!

 

 

Missing Persons

In an idle moment, whilst Offspring 2 was visiting last week we delved into the small archive of family photos I managed to salvage from my parents belongings before Sibling 1 ditched the entire caboodle into a refuse bin.

This did not happen recently, you understand. My father shuffled from the mortal coil nearly 10 years ago; but it is only now that Offspring has indicated an interest in constructing some kind of family tree and has enlisted my help in annotation. The help is limited, since my knowledge of our ancestral roots is woefully lacking.

My mother had 3 siblings and my father 6. I am able to detail my mother’s sister and 2 brothers plus their offspring [my cousins]. On my father’s side, where he had 3 sisters and 3 brothers I can name my uncles and aunts but am flummoxed by all but the nearest in age cousins. As my father was the youngest of 7, the age difference between he and his oldest brother was so great that he and his nephew [my cousin] were almost the same age, prompting my grandfather to call my father [at around age 4] ‘Uncle’.

I never knew my paternal grandparents, who had a smallholding on a modest farm plot in a Wiltshire village on the edge of The New Forest. But I know that my grandfather, Harry was a ‘character’ who took the produce to market in Salisbury twice a week on a cart pulled by a horse called Ginger. Harry, [according to my father] was inclined to squander some of the proceeds of his market stall in the local hostelry before he returned and was regularly brought back to the farm [much the worse for wear] by Ginger, who knew the way.

But I love the photographs; small, grainy monochrome snapshots of smiling subjects who seem always to be having fun, always to be in the sunshine or always enjoying a day at the beach, a picnic, a dog-walk. Often they are smoking a cigarette and appear to be sharing a private joke and I long to know what it is. These are their ‘selfies’, the difference between them and the social media equivalents being that they were not shared instantly with all and sundry and were left for us, the curious descendants to unravel their mysteries.

I wish, now that I had plundered my father’s memories before he departed. There are a few pencil annotations in my mother’s elegant, sloping hand on the back of a few, often with question marks, indicating that she, too was mystified by the photographs.

Yes, we could pay to discover our ancestry, but it’s not a route I want to travel down. Offspring, perhaps may do so in the future. But I have employed some of the characters in a story, published on this blog in 2015, an extract of which can be read here: ‘Caught’

 

Silly Season Selfi-shness

Here we are in the midst of the holiday season; overpriced, wet [now], crowded and frustrating [airports and traffic queues].

Schools are out, parliament is out, railway networks and road systems have chosen to upgrade or get repairs done as usual.

At the seafront in our nearest town the beach was thronged with families on Wednesday, so that finding a small space where we [GrandOffspring and I] could plop down long enough to construct a teeny-weeny sandcastle proved problematical. We’d already had a bus ride, done lunch and visited the funfair [a serious blow to the granny purse] and this next activity was sandwiched [see what I  did there?] between expenditure of industrial proportions on the rides and the obligatory ice cream.

For a brief rest [essential for grannies] we sat on a bench, where I was asked by a smiling young woman to take a photo of her with her husband and two small children-which I did, taking an extra one for luck. She thanked me, whereupon GrandOffspring was moved to ask me if the woman was my friend.

In these times, a request to take a photo is a refreshing breeze wafting through the forest of selfie sticks that crowd into every popular view. I read this morning that an unseemly scuffle broke out at The Trevi Fountain in Rome between two rival selfie-takers competing for the best spot [ fisticuffs at the Trevi Fountain ] and I remembered when, a few years ago whilst being escorted around The Alhambra Palace in Granada it was nigh impossible to photograph any of the inner courtyards, fountains and architectural marvels owing to a posing woman and her doting husband, who insisted on draping her coiffed and made-up body over everything and snapping all angles.

There was also last year’s visit to Venice, during which hoards of excited teenage girls were selfy-ing themselves to death on every bridge, corner, fountain, square, path, archway and step, taking up their ‘model’ poses with a leg bent out, chin up, breasts stuck forward and lips duly pouted.

My nearest and dearest know only too well that I am phobic about having my own photograph taken and that few images of myself exist since about 2003 [when Husband and I took the plunge into matrimonial decorum].

You have to wonder why this self-obsession has taken hold, why this desire to show oneself off at every opportunity is so overwhelming. I have a modest collection of grainy, black and white photos of previous generations of my family and something they have in common is that they are all taken whilst everyone is engaged in some kind of activity. There is a picnic, a walk, playing cricket on a beach. There are uncles with trouser legs rolled up, aunties with skirts hoisted ready to paddle, people eating ice creams and children batting at makeshift wickets.

This is why, when I photograph my own grandchildren I like to capture them doing what they do, not posed. Maybe the selfie fashion will die a death one day-I can only hope…